As a product innovator, I am very interested in what is commonly called the maker movement – people involved in making all types of technology-based items typically for their own learning and satisfaction. One aspect of this is robotics, so I was very interested to hear about plans to offer robotics classes for kids in my home town of Monument, CO. Further, my kids love making things and I know they would enjoy learning more about robotics. I tracked down Paul Klahn, the person starting the courses and asked him a few questions. After reading the interview below, if you have questions about the courses, call 719-772-6061, or email email@example.com.
Chad: Why did you decide to put together these classes?
Paul: My teenage son has always been interested in math, science, and computers — and in 6th grade he was first introduced to robotics and the FIRST Lego League. I helped coach his Lego League team, and I got to watch those kids light up and get excited about learning and competing. The friends he made on that team turned out to be his best friends throughout middle school. It was such a fantastic experience, and I think it would be great if more kids could have this opportunity. It’s difficult for parents or teachers to take on something like this, so I decided to provide this service to help fill the gap. I believe our kids can accomplish amazing things if we provide them with the right opportunities.
Chad: What is your background that has made you interested in robotics and prepared you to teach kids about how things work?
Paul: I’m an aerospace engineer and a former Air Force officer, so I’ve done a lot of design engineering, system engineering, and program management. I’ve also started and run several businesses over the past 10 years. Probably my best qualification is that I’m “Dad” for two great kids, and I’ve devoted a lot of my energy toward teaching and mentoring them in many ways. I’ve spent much of my adult life searching out meaningful educational experiences for my kids and trying to participate and “coach” as much as possible.
Chad: What will a class experience be like for kids?
Paul: As soon as the kids walk through the door, they’ll quickly realize this isn’t “school.” Beyond Limits is a fun place to hang out and explore some really cool stuff with your friends. Kids will work in teams of two, and each team will be provided with a laptop and a robot kit. About 25% of the class time will be instructor-led, teaching new concepts and techniques. About 50% of the time will be dedicated to hands-on exploratory learning, where the kids will work together to create things and solve problems. The last 25% of the class time will be set aside for fun competition, where kids will attempt to complete the daily challenge. The kids will be recognized for their achievements — whether big or small — and each class will be able to see how far the other classes are progressing. The idea is to create a sense of healthy competition (just like any sport or game) and help teach our kids to work hard and reach for high goals. ALL kids will be supported in their quest to achieve and grow.
Chad: What are you hoping kids will take away from this robotic experience?
Paul: I’d like our kids to develop a love for learning and discovery. I want them to prove to themselves that they can achieve more than they thought was possible (i.e., Beyond Limits!). I’d like the kids to have a sense of pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments: “Hey, Mom! Dad! Look what I did! Watch this!” I’d like them to experience all of this in a supportive environment, where teamwork, respect, and friendship are considered top priorities. I hope the kids (and parents) will love what we do, and they’ll want to keep learning with us and eventually show off their skills in upcoming robotics competitions, like the FIRST Lego League competition that is held each year in the fall.
Chad: For anyone local to Monument, CO, how do they find out more about the classes, cost, location, etc?
Paul: We have an “Introduction to Robotics” class starting the week of November 4, 2013, and it’s a great way for kids in grades 5 – 8 to get started. Several class times are available, and the cost is just $99 for this 6-week session. Parents can register their children by calling 719-772-6061, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the future, more information will be available at www.beyondlimits-kids.com — but at the moment our website is still under construction!